Lead Stories

An official at a community health clinic in Rimouski, Quebec, issued a warning in July that growing numbers of local teenagers were injecting beer directly into their veins, a practice that gives a faster rush than drinking and leaves very little odor.

As of early July, the Tulsa County, Oklahoma, prosecutor’s office had concluded all but a few of the 50 retrials ordered in 1995 by the state court of criminal appeals because of now-retired Judge Clifford Hopper’s errors in the original cases. Hopper had routinely told jurors that defendants are presumed not guilty rather than innocent and had failed to instruct juries that the prosecution had to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. All retrials so far have resulted in convictions.

The news service Agence France Presse reported in June that the Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization Hezbollah had begun to sanction temporary “pleasure marriages” because poverty and a shortage of men have made regular marriage less desirable. The temporary marriage, called mutaa and based on writings in the Koran, is a contract for a specific time period, anywhere from days to years, whereby an unmarried woman will take on the duties of a wife in exchange for money. According to Hezbollah, the mutaa implies a right to sexual pleasure that is not permitted in many other religions.

Can’t Possibly Be True

In June Franklin James, 23, was charged with aggravated assault in Newport, Tennessee, after putting super glue on his wife’s genitals as punishment for her alleged affair. His wife obtained a judicial protection order against him, but by August the couple was reportedly living together again and planning to move to North Carolina.

Goeran Rudolfsson, recovering in July from brain-tumor surgery in a hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, had been complaining about nasal congestion when he blew his nose and felt something flapping inside his nostril. When he stopped his gentle tugging, he was holding a 31-inch-long cloth apparently left inside his skull during the operation.

In April in Port Washington, Wisconsin, Kevin Gillson, 18, was convicted of sexual assault of a child when his 15-year-old girlfriend became pregnant, even though the couple was attending parenting classes together and Gillson said they planned to marry. Gillson was barred from being around any nonadults, including the mother of his child. And Richard A. Duke Jr., 22, was jailed for 30 days in May in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland, for having sex with the 15-year-old girl whom he had married between his arrest and conviction. A judge ordered Duke, now a sex offender, to stay away from the girl even though she is his wife.

In June a Scripps Howard News Service reporter examined Consumer Product Safety Commission records recently made public and found that 1,823 serious injuries caused by electronic air-fresheners had been reported to the agency. Though the records were short on details, they included 50 cases of amputation, 46 burns, 48 scaldings, 68 poisonings, 56 foreign-body penetrations, and 69 drownings.

Courtroom Follies

The Michigan court of appeals in April ruled in favor of a prison inmate on trial for tossing a cup of liquefied feces in the face of a guard. The court said Alphonso Gaines, 34, already serving time for assault, could not be punished further because the prosecutors forgot to prove that Gaines was lawfully incarcerated at the time he threw the feces. Fumed prosecutor Gail Hitchcock, “Did they think we were charging someone who had sneaked into prison?”

In June defense lawyer Phillip Robertson, trying to make a dramatic point in front of the jury at his client’s robbery trial in Dallas, pointed the nine-millimeter pistol used in the crime toward the jury box, causing jurors to gasp and cover their faces. Though Robertson was arguing that his client should be sentenced to probation, the jury gave him 13 years.

A stripper who had filed a lawsuit in Fairfax County, Virginia, to recover damages for injuries she suffered in a car accident objected to the defendant’s showing of a videotape of her performing after the crash, but according to her lawyer the use of the tape backfired in her favor. The tape showed her merely standing and wiggling, while her notoriety before the accident stemmed from her agility in working around a pole. In March the jury awarded her $182,000, three times what she had requested. Six of the seven jurors were men.

In June in Dothan, Alabama, Judge Lawson Little sentenced Jerrick Michael Snell to 20 years in prison for cocaine possession. Afterward, as the judge passed Snell in a courthouse holding pen, Snell suggested in explicit terms that the judge perform oral sex on him. Little promptly ordered him back into the courtroom and changed the sentence to life in prison.

In February in Fresno, California, defendant Alphonse Lee Woods, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffed, stood in superior court with his lawyer to answer charges of drug possession, trespass, and obstruction of justice. His attorney, Frank Dornay, 44, was also handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit. He had recently missed a mandatory drug test that was a condition of his probation on drug charges.

In June a judge in London, England, ruled that two social critics had libeled McDonald’s restaurants in a widely distributed brochure and ordered them to pay the company about $96,000. The brochure had accused the chain of cruelty to animals, employment discrimination, destruction of the rain forests, paying low wages, and serving dietarily dangerous products. To clear its name, McDonald’s endured 313 days of trial (the longest trial in British history) over 30 months that reportedly cost the company about ten million dollars. The activists’ combined annual income is about $12,000.

Leading Economic Indicators

In February a newspaper in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, reported that the rising cost of dowries over the last 30 years has driven men to seek foreign brides who don’t require them and has created a glut of unmarriageable local women. In April Ruben Torres, adviser to the president of the Philippines, said the revival of the economy has been espeically good for the psyches of local men, who are now increasingly welcomed by bar girls. Said Torres, “Previously, no Filipina girl would come near a Filipino customer because they knew the man did not have enough cash for tips.” And in August the New York Times reported that a recent surfeit of crack-addicted prostitutes in New York City has driven down the street price of oral sex from fifty dollars to two or three.

The Only Way Out

In April, the co-owner of an exclusive restaurant across the street from Augusta National Golf Club shot himself to death on the second day of the Masters because he was unable to fill the ticket orders he had taken for the tournament.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration by Shawn Belshwender.